Tuesday, July 29, 2014

CODA Advice?

Hello Everyone,

This post is not being done in ASL tonight. I may sign it in a video at a later date, but not now.

First things first. I am happy to be back. I meandered off of my path for a while. Call it cynicism, call it disinvestment of a sort, I'm not 100% sure myself, but I do know it was a mix of a number of things. I believe the catch-all, one word description is 'rut'. I have been in a long rut. I owe the timing of this return to two recent things. First, the website, si5s.org, is finally moving forward. Click the link to see what I mean. Second, in response to my enthusiasm about the first event, someone told me today that they miss my writing and want to read more. Do I really need further motivation? Not likely. So thanks are in order to Robert Augustus, for the drive to make si5s an integral part of Deaf culture, and to Dianne, you may only be one of a handful who regularly read these posts, but what you said earlier was taken to heart.

So this post is a response to Erik Witteborg, who suggested a 'writing prompt'. He's good like that. This one made me think, and even now I don't fully know what I'm about to say. His prompt was this - If you can go back in time to meet your 10 year old CODA self, what advice would you give? This response should just be what it is. No conscious effort to be funny or serious. Thinking back to when I was 10, my parents reluctantly had to move to a town almost a two hour drive away from home. My father had landed a new job in the "Big City" of Bangor, Maine, so they sold the house and we moved. We eventually moved into an apartment complex, but first spent 6 long and grueling months with my mother's parents. The tension in the house was never lost on me. Worse than that, the town was considerably larger, and I had no friends there. This is the me that I would advise, so here goes.

Hey kid,

It's ok. Things look like shit right now, but it's ok. The first thing I want you to know is that it's ok to not want to be your parents interpreter. They don't like putting you in that position either, even if it seems like they just expect you to do it. Nevermind their friends who always tell you that you should grow up to be an interpreter. That's crap. Do what makes you happy. Mom and Dad will always be proud of that, and that's ok.

Second, don't stress out too much about the other kids at school. You know most of them won't even try to understand what having Deaf parents is like, and you DO know they will all ask you ridiculous questions about it. You can't hide it, and you may as well be straight with them. Don't forget to show your pride in them and in yourself. You don't know it now, but later you will begin to meet so many people with parents like yours, far many more than the ones you know now. You will call yourselves CODAs. I'm pretty sure many of them are calling themselves that now. Wear it like a badge, for it is you. It's ok to show them.

Third, don't back down when something needs to be said. You're gonna be great at this anyway, but don't hold back either way. Please do your best to remember to think about all sides of the situation. Family IS wrong for how they put Dad down, but someday they'll kind of get it, and that will be because you DIDN'T back down. It's ok, no matter how angry you get. Respect will come in the end. It's still ok.

Last, stop feeling guilty. You will take advantage of situations because you haven't found yourself yet. When you do, remember that was part of the process. Know that Mom and Dad understand this and won't hold a grudge. It's what kids do. Don't let that guilt remain there, even after Dad leaves this world. You don't need to tell him you're sorry. He gets it. He's proud of you no matter what because he believes in you. It's his legacy to you and when you're a man you keep that close to your heart instead of the guilt. Honor the legacy. Teach the world who Deaf people are, through you. The best thing you can do is leave this world better than you find it, and let's be honest, we've seen more than our fair share of shit. Way more. Honor the legacy and help clean it up. Teach the world, and they will begin to clean it up, too. Make it better for future generations. Believe you will see him again, and you will. You will see how proud he really is. Trust me, it's ok. It will always be ok.


Well, there it is... and it's ok.

Until next time,

R. M.